Seekers of Adoulin is finally here.
It was only 9 months ago when we at BG discovered the existence of ROM9, which was to become Final Fantasy XI's first expansion in 5 years. Nothing before that could have prepared us for what to expect. FFXI seemed like a dead game. Although the Abyssea add-ons were a pretty good showing in 2010, the game was barely getting version updates by 2012 and even those were pretty lacking in content. But the same cannot be said today.
Indeed, this entry looks at the new expansion through the lens of an avid player of Final Fantasy XI, in an attempt to see how it has and will change the future of this 11-year old MMORPG.
"What do you seek in Adoulin?"
The reveal trailer for this expansion came with this statement, and I couldn't think of a better question to ask for anyone intending to return to FFXI to play. Some have come back for new areas to explore, for others its new monsters, and many of those who still play look forward to NMs to kill for better gear. The two new jobs, Geomancer and Rune Fencer have proven to be a huge hit as well. As for me, I've always been a fan of the story, so that is my biggest draw. But all these can be summarized into one common element, which is.. something new.
Whereas the last full expansion pack, Wings of the Goddess, focused on a theme of nostalgia and war, Seekers of Adoulin is much more akin to Treasures of Aht Urhgan in that its central themes are that of exploring uncharted frontiers and a boundless sense of wanderlust. It might thus seem ironic that in doing so, it conjures a strong sense of nostalgia for its players, who harken such elements back to the days of previous expansion releases.
So now that the expansion has gone live, how is Seekers of Adoulin?
If there is one thing that Square Enix has gotten right with Seekers, it's that it truly captures the zeitgeist of a new expansion. There is so much new in Seekers compared to the last 5 years of content that you'd be excused if you forgot they ever existed. It certainly does feel like an entirely new chapter in the history of FFXI and not a rehash that was put together to keep people busy while SE developed a failed MMO.
While it's hard to expect anything truly original in terms of new zones, they definitely do impress for an 11 year old game. From the vast expanse of Morimar Basalt Fields with its shimmering sky to the tainted purple waters of Foret de Hennetiel, the areas actually feels fresh. The new city of Adoulin also appears to be well planned - with waypoints strewn throughout the zone, traveling within the city is a world of convenience compared to any other city in the game. Clearly, the developers have improved their craft in this area over the last 5 years.
The most prominent new gameplay system in Seekers would have to be Colonization, which further plays up the theme of exploration. Players need to embark on a server-wide effort to clear terrain obstacles on the field and work towards upgrading the 6 coalitions of Adoulin to unlock more content in the game. At first blush it is much better planned than Campaign, but it remains to be seen whether such a server-wide system will succeed when there is almost no way to coordinate the actions of an entire server.